The Spanish, as we know, are the kings of the siesta; that civilised little afternoon nap that helps them avoid the heat of the day and recharge the batteries.
During the Vuelta Espana I also like to partake.
By absorbing as much of the culture of our southern European cousins as possible I am better positioned to convey the colour and flavour of this great race.
Later each day, recharged by my sleep, you’ll find me out in the field at the back of my house in full matador regalia, cape in hand, outwitting the local bulls. Then it’s a quick shower, and a massive bowl of paella at 10.30 in the evening.
It’s the most enjoyable three weeks of my otherwise dull north-of-England year.
As it happened stage six, today, was prime siesta territory. Never has a Vuelta stage looked more likely to end in a sprint finish. The three-man break was doomed like a pretty actress in a horror movie, and the whole race was guaranteed to come back together for a showdown between Viviani and co.
With thirty kilometres to go the catch was made, and I happily nodded off. I’d only stayed awake so long for the rare sight of Richie Porte taking part in a breakaway – the mirror-cracking black-cat-encountering Tasmanian is usually a contender, but being forty minutes down in the race he’d headed up the road for a glorified training ride.Embed from Getty Images
I then slept on through the finish, and awoke in a state of confusion.
I checked in with the conclusion to the stage online to be met with stories of panic, time gaps, echelons, and all manner of drama.
“How long have I been asleep?” I wondered.
On reading Nacer Bouhanni had taken the stage win my sense of perspective started to unravel.
“What year are we in?
Is this 2022? Have I been in a coma? Has Bouahanni turned over a new leaf?
Is he now a thoroughly nice chap and the dominant sprinter in pro cycling?
Or have I had another of my slightly concerning dreams involving pro cyclists and livestock?”
Disorientated, I wandered into the kitchen to find my wife thoughtfully preparing the paella and suggesting I use a proper stain remover to get the grass stains from my cape.
Once fed and watered I began to piece together events.
The very moment I’d nodded off a shoddily protected bollard in a Spanish town had scythed the peloton into groups. At the same time, a change of direction brought crosswinds in to play and those riders not in the front group were now as doomed as the incidental extras in the aforementioned movie.
Wilco Kelderman and Thibaut Pinot lost time.
Much slapping of thighs and thumping of bars was evident as the chasers crossed the line. Frustration rippled through the group. Explanatory monologues detailing how the split was missed were being hastily composed for use in the team bus.
Upfront, meanwhile, Bouhanni had indeed outsprinted Elia Viviani.Embed from Getty Images
The big favourite for the day and his lead-out man got their timings a touch awry and the erratic Frenchman took advantage in style.
His celebration as he crossed the line was, I believe, the perfect delivery of a textbook right cross. Not only photogenic, but justifying my heavy use of boxing analogy on stage three.
To make amends for today I have resolved to adjust the timings of tomorrow’s siesta to ensure I’m awake, and alert, at the key moments of the race.
I will simply add the two hours on to my morning lie in, rise just before lunch, knock back a few tapas, and then tune in to the bike race until it reaches a conclusion.
Viva la Vuelta!
(Paella pic via pixabay.com)